UPDATE 1-Australia's QBE warns H1 results could disappoint
(Rewrites throughout, adds details about interim results)
SYDNEY, July 29 (Reuters) - QBE Insurance Group, Australia's biggest insurer by premium income, on Tuesday warned that its first-half results would likely fall short of analysts' forecasts, hit by higher-than-expected claims.
QBE said it expected insurance profit margin at 7 percent to 8 percent compared with consensus expectations of about 10 percent. Operating ratio - operating expenses as a percentage of revenue - would likely be 96 percent to 97 percent against consensus expectations of around 93 percent.
Net profit after tax would be A$390 million ($367.03 million), it added. That compares with a consensus forecast of A$571.8 million, according to Thomson Reuters Starmine data.
The announcement sent QBE shares plunging 12.11 percent to A$10.45 in early trades, compared with a 0.19 percent dip on the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index.
Higher claims in Argentina, crop damage in Latin America, UK floods and storms in North American and Europe offset benign catastrophe claims in Australia, QBE said in a statement.
In contrast, QBE's arch rival Insurance Australia Group has raised its profit margin guidance for 2014 from as low as 14.5 percent to up to 18.3 percent on lower disaster claims in Australia.
IAG will announce full year-results on Aug. 19, the same day QBE will post its interim results.
The Sydney-based firm is in the process of cutting costs in North America as well as improving its loss-making lender-placed insurance business, it added. Continuación...